Connect with us

Politics & Government

Long Beach Community Members Rise Up




Community members recently wrapped up the three-pronged Long Beach Rising! civic-engagement program aimed at increasing residents’ participation in local politics. I’ve been part of the civic-engagement committee, which formed in November 2011 to address low voter turnout in local elections —particularly from people of color and low-income communities.

From the outset committee members knew we wanted to do something about the persistent disparities in voter participation (and the consequences this has for city policy), but didn’t have a blueprint for this sort of endeavor. So we set out to create one.

From the start there was a high level of enthusiasm, with members from nearly 20 community organizations convening last November to begin planning Long Beach Rising! This process was facilitated by the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community.

In January, 35 people graduated from our inaugural training program. Participants learned about Long Beach’s political landscape, discussed the issues impacting working people and families, and practiced making connections between these issues and the importance of voting and broader civic engagement.

Based on feedback from Long Beach Rising! participants and the ongoing campaigns of sponsoring organizations, our civic-engagement committee developed a “community action pledge.” The pledge highlighted community members’ desire for living-wage jobs, responsible development with local-hire policies, affordable housing, quality education, safe neighborhoods and environmental protections. Targeting areas of Long Beach typically underrepresented at the polls, we used the pledge to talk to potential voters about these issues and to ask them to commit to voting in Long Beach local elections on April 10. By mid-March, more than 500 people signed on to the pledge.

This groundswell of grassroots energy was on display February 29 at the first ever People’s State of the City, a community forum designed to educate residents about voting patterns in Long Beach and how they correlate with issues impacting our neighborhoods. More than 300 people attended, including a number of city leaders and their representatives.

The collaboration between diverse organizations—representing environmentalists and education activists, media makers and LGBTQ advocates, racial-justice organizers and religious leaders (and more!)—was vital to the program’s success. Meeting regularly allowed us to share our visions for what civic engagement could look like in Long Beach and how each organization could contribute to the program and involve our members and constituents. While there is much more work to do, our first run at a civic-engagement effort of this scope created a solid framework to build upon for future efforts.

Check out recent coverage of Long Beach Rising! in the Long Beach Post.

Continue Reading




Top Stories